There seems to be a pattern that's formed over the last decade. Apple releases a product. It's different. It doesn't follow the rules. It defies a lot of widely accepted assumptions. Then, lots of people all over the Internet, both so-called pundits and everyday schmoes pronounce that it's a horrible device that nobody in their right mind would ever want. It doesn't support Ogg! It has no floppy drive! It has no multi-tasking! Product X already does this and it's cheaper!. Etc., etc. ad nauseum.
And then the product goes on to be a huge success, expanding the perception of who uses that type of device greatly. The iMac, the iPod, the iPhone.
So, here we go again with the iPad.
Here's the thing: It's not a general-purpose computer. It's not a Mac. They did this really subtle thing to tell you that: they didn't put "Mac" in the name anywhere. If it had been the MacPad1, then maybe some of these complaints would be perfectly valid. Maybe expecting it to act a certain way would be appropriate.
But it's not a Mac. It's a new consumer device. It's targeted at people who do e-mail, surf the web a little, play a few games, watch some movies, and listen to music. It's not a replacement for a computer if you do more than that on your computer. But most people don't. We geeks are the minority on that point, and for many people, a regular computer is both overkill and frustrating. The iPad is not a tablet computer in the sense that Windows tablets are. But what it is, is all that the vast majority of people will ever want out of a computer, and it fits in a briefcase, purse, or backpack and weighs less than two pounds.
Don't fault it for not being what it's not supposed to be and don't assume that in the handful of hours you've had since you first learned about it, that you've put more thought into this product than the engineers and designers at Apple. You haven't. I haven't either. But I see what they're doing, and it's brilliant.
Now, I very much understand the fear that we're on a slow march towards a completely enclosed platform, and that would be a bad destination. But, since Apple sold well over 3 million Macs last quarter, continues to contribute to open source projects like WebKit and Darwin, and is continuing to innovate on the Mac with things like GCD and OpenCL, I don't think that's really where we're headed. I think that Apple has realized that we all have different computing needs, and is trying to provide the best computing experience relative to our needs across the spectrum. I don't ever see the iPhone OS running on an eight-processor tower with two large screens. Just because some of Apple's products are locked down doesn't mean that the only possible destination is a future where all Apple products are. I think we're going to a place where both professionals and consumers can get what they want out of computing devices. If we go anywhere else, people will start abandoning the platform.
But as long as there are computers running Mac OS X for those of us who need the power and flexibility, this trajectory is actually a good thing2. For the bulk of consumers, ease of use trumps power or flexibility. If it doesn't for you, don't buy an iPad, or at least, don't buy it as your primary computer.
And if you doubt the efficacy of targeting the consumer market like this, just think about the fact that there are now more iPhone OS devices in existence than there are Macs, even before the iPad ships.
1 Like many others, I'd love a true MacPad - a device similar to this in hardware that runs unfettered OS X. But that doesn't mean this isn't a good product or won't be a success
2 Think of how much less time you'd have to spend being tech support for friends and family if they were all on a locked down device like the iPad. Just sayin'